Vaginal dryness is one of the hallmark symptoms of menopause, but vaginal dryness can be caused by a range of factors. During and after menopause, the body produces less estrogen, which leads to the vagina producing less moisture and having thinner and weaker vaginal walls.
According to studies, around half of all menopausal women develop vaginal dryness. Some of the common symptoms of vaginal dryness include itching, bleeding during sex, painful intercourse, discomfort, burning, irritation, stinging, increased frequency of urination, and pressure. One of the things sometimes suggested to women as a cure for vaginal dryness during menopause is black cohosh.
What Is Black Cohosh?
Scientifically named Actaea racemosa, black cohosh is a plant native to North America that grows in the Eastern part of the United States and Canada and is part of the buttercup family. Found in woodland areas, the rhizomes and roots of black cohosh have been used medicinally by Native Americans and later by Westerners for centuries.
What Is the Connection between Black Cohosh and Vaginal Dryness?
Black cohosh was used by the Native Americans to treat gynecological problems, sore throats, kidney problems, and depression. Scientific research has not been able to corroborate any of black cohosh's traditional medicinal uses. In most well-done studies, black cohosh does not work any better than the placebo to treat vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and other menopausal symptoms. However, some women do report personal benefit.
No long-term research has been done on black cohosh, so it is usually not recommended to take black cohosh for longer than six months. It is also imperative to talk to your doctor before you start taking black cohosh to go over possible side effects and interactions with your current medication that the plant may have. Your doctor may also be able to assist you in finding lifestyle changes and other forms of medicine that may be more helpful.
Treatments for Vaginal Dryness
The most effective treatment for vaginal dryness caused by decrease estrogen levels during menopause is estrogen therapy. Estrogen can increase the vagina's natural moisture and strengthen vaginal walls to prevent vaginal atrophy. However, estrogen therapy does not work for all women, and it can have some serious side effects.
Lubricants and moisturizers can help women with vaginal dryness, along with talking to a therapist to work out any relationship issues. Herbal remedies for vaginal dryness usually do not work better than the placebo effect, and more research needs to be done to figure out how well these herbs work. However, if black cohosh is working for you, then you should feel free to continue taking it under your physician's supervision. For more information on natural cures for vaginal dryness, click on the links below.
- National Institutes of Health. (2008). Vaginal dryness alternative treatments. Retrieved September 30, 2015, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002142.htm
- Office of Dietary Supplements. (2008). Black Cohosh. Retrieved September 30, 2015, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/BlackCohosh-HealthProfessional/
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2014). Black Cohosh. Retrieved September 30, 2015, from https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/black-cohosh